Dugald's story

When Dugald was in his pre-teens, he was sexually abused by Richard Kells, a young man in his early 20s.

It ruined Dugald’s marriage, turned him against his parents and led him from a successful career to being ‘almost on the streets’.

He is also terrified of being ostracised, like others in his faith who have gone public. He greatly fears that his family might suffer should anyone in their community discover he has spoken with the Royal Commission.

Dugald said his community is so close knit, very few people have come forward. ‘It took me 34 years to do it. I haven’t spoken to the organisation [which employed Kells as a youth leader]. I haven’t spoken to any of the peers I was with at the time ... I’ve discussed it with no one in that regard.’

Dugald broke down as he spoke of years of wondering why he didn’t do anything to stop Kells from molesting him during two camps and other weekend events in the 1970s. Intellectually, he knows that he was a child at the time and not responsible for the abuse, but this doesn’t always change the way he feels.

While fearing legal retribution from the camp organisation, he has spent years worrying that Kells may have abused other children. Recently he stepped up attempts to track the man down, as yet without success.

‘The police’, he said, ‘have been about as useful as an ashtray on a hot air balloon.’

They contacted Dugald after his initial approach to the Royal Commission, but since then there has been one phone call and two emails in 18 months.

They confirmed only Kells’s lack of presence in Australian records, with no driver’s licence or address on the electoral role.

‘Maybe someone saw something on this camp’, Dugald said. ‘[There were] shower blocks there and I remember he would say, “Let’s go and have a shower”. And it’d be 6 am. And I remember someone came in and said, “What are you guys doing in here?” And he went all funny. He got all weird. I didn’t know what was wrong.’

Nothing even close to sex education was ever taught in Dugald’s religious school.

What he remembers clearly is feigning illness when his parents arrived for a visit during the first camp. ‘I was faking two or three toothaches – and I had perfect teeth. I went home and had nine fillings.’

Even after Dugald stopped going to the camps, he couldn’t get away from Kells. ‘I do remember being at my parents’ place once and there was no one home. And he had me on the bedroom floor and he was on top of me and kissing me and everything and touching me and stuff and Mum came in the front door. “Oh Dugald, you here?” And he jumped up like shit off a shanghai. That’s the first time it clicked to me.’

He often saw Kells afterwards at other activities involving children. ‘There might be 10 of me, or three of me. I don’t know because I have spoken to not one person associated at that time and I was really close with a lot of them and we were really good friends for years. One of the guys I’ve known since I was five.’

Dugald said he became ‘a totally different person’ after the abuse. ‘My parents are the most unbelievable people and I was just a pig to them …

‘I started smoking pot at 13 ... I was naughty … very rebellious. Stole cars. Stole my parents’ car and wrapped it around a telegraph pole … Just irresponsible … just stupid and I still am irresponsible. I cannot assume responsibility. I can’t.’

An alcoholic since his teens, Dugald drank ‘four litres’ before his private session with the Royal Commission. ‘I finished at 3 am this morning and I’ll go and do it again tonight.’

He’s also used marijuana and harder drugs and, like now, has been close to being homeless. The abuse ‘had an impact on every single relationship’, he said.

Dugald had a successful career, travelled the world and had a family, and ‘then it all starts catching up. You can bluff everyone for so long.

‘I walked away from a lot of money and ever since then I’ve been on the biggest downhill spiral … I’ve been covering it up for a long, long [time]. I’m not covering it up now. I’m just telling it as it as … maybe it’ll be easier after this because you are the first people, really, that I’ve [told].’

Unemployed for some years, Dugald said he had seen numerous psychologists but hasn’t been able to afford to keep it up. He may take legal action in the future.

He will also approach the police again to report Kells, but his intense fear of being identified remains.

‘I can’t resolve anything’, Dugald said. ‘I just want to know he’s not out there doing it anywhere else. I always said I’d never forgive myself if he had been.’

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